“HEDP fully funded my two-year master’s degree program in Malaysia, an experience that I would dub as ‘life transformational’.” These are the words of Mr. Jawed Qaderi, one of the hundreds of beneficiaries of Higher Education Development Project (HEDP). He was a lecturer at Kabul University’s Chemistry Faculty with a B.A degree when HEDP sent him over to Malaysia’s Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) in 2017 for a two-year master degree program. The Scholarship covered all the relevant costs from visa fees to travel and transportation costs, tuition and registration fees, bursary, food allowance, accommodation costs, medical insurance, and book allowance.
Over the past decade, most of the academic members at Afghan public universities held a bachelor’s degree, teaching students who had actually been the same level as them. The professors also lacked required knowledge in their own field, making it all too difficult to impart quality education to the younger generation. The idea to acquire higher education than undergraduate level and research activities seemed outlandish. These along with teacher-centric approach of higher education and lack of access to the top-notch educational expertise and kills in the area of quality learning materials, teacher resources and research almost blocked the way for progress, entrenching the view that the status quo should not be altered. The understanding, however, changed overtime and a generally held belief became common that a university professor should have at least a Ph.D. degree in his respective field for him to become an academic member.
In an effort to overcome or at least alleviate the foregoing challenges, “Improving the Qualifications and Skills of Academic and Technical Staff” thematic unit of HEDP attempted in 2015 to increase capacity of university lecturers across the country so that they can better train and equip future Afghan leaders with required expertise. So far, as many as 435 academic members have been awarded master degree scholarships while recipients of Ph.D. degree stand at 56. Currently, most of the academic members are busy at pursuing their Master and PhD degrees abroad in different countries, such as Malaysia, Thailand, India, Kazakhstan, Iran, Germany, the Netherlands, Cyprus, and France. Presently, there are 221 master degree graduates across the country in different fields, such as agriculture, engineering, computer science, literature, physics, chemistry, etc.
Besides awarding the scholarships for public university lecturers, HEDP has also implemented 42 IT and ICT projects, trained some 2,326 academic staff in OBE-SCL; awarded 150 research grants; established 18 internal quality assurance units (IQAUs); accredited some 60 universities and trained 468 public universities’ technical staff on various leadership and professional skill-building topics. The program has also contributed the MoHE in improving access to higher education in Afghanistan through establishing lecture blocks and gender-specific interventions such as female dorms, child care centers and counseling centers at the public universities.
Now, HEDP graduates have honed their skills to write academic papers and publish them in well-known international journals, thanks to the state-of-the-art quality education they have received through HEDP Scholarships. Upon their return, not only the recipients apply their knowledge through researches, but also engage in teaching at their respective universities, a sustainable effort for long-lasting consequences. This is visible in Mr. Qaderi’s work as well. “After returning to my home country, I shared my experience with my colleagues at the faculty of chemistry as well as the students of chemistry department. I also supervise groups of students to work with them on their final year projects,” he said, adding that such developments would not be possible had it not been for HEDP support.